Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Constant Bear

A fundamental auxillary exercise found among the practioners of Cheng Man Ching Style Taijiquan is the Constant Bear.

It is said that Prof Cheng began teaching this variation of the well known exercise to an elderly student that was just having too much difficulty with the normal movements.

The Constant Bear, practiced in this manner, is supposed to embody the essentials of TJQ form practice.

There is some more information on the Constant Bear at Violet Li's column.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Classic BJJ Match

Below is a video of a classic BJJ match, Rigan Machado vs Rickson Gracie.

Rigan Machado is one of the Machado Brothers, cousins of the Gracies, learning from Carlos Jr. He sometimes trained with, and is the only person every to have defeated his cousin Rickson in a competition.

Today they are both 8th degree black belts in BJJ.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Seeing the World Through the Game of Go

This was posted over at the Dao of Strategy blog. An excerpt is below. the full article may be read here.

Games are eloquent... Sociologists and anthropologists have sought since the beginning of the century to extrapolate more or less successfully on the identity of various societies, on the basis of the games they play. In his work of synthesis on games, Roger Caillois states the following:
"Along with music, calligraphy and painting, the Chinese place the game of draughts and the game of chess among the four disciplines that a learned man must practice. They believe that these games train the intellect to take pleasure in the multiple answers, combinations and surprises which spring forth continuously from constantly new situations. Aggression is said to be calmed, while the soul learns serenity, harmony, and the joy of contemplating possibilities. Without any doubt, this is a mark of civilization [...]. Societies which are full of hustle and bustle, whether they be Australian, American or African, are societies which are also dominated by the mask and by possession, which is to say by mimicry and the ilinx: conversely, the Incas, the Assyrians, the Chinese and the Romans present ordered societies, with offices and careers, with codes and scales, with controlled and hierarchical privileges, where competition and chance, which is to say in this context, merit and birth, appear as the primary and complementary elements of social interplay."[2]

Thursday, April 21, 2016

More Than Just Practice for Martial Arts Excellence

Is 10,000 hours of deliberate practice enough to achieve excellence? That's not the half of it, or even a third of it.

Below is an excerpt from an article that appeared in Psychology Today which states just that. The full article may be read here .

They say that practice makes perfect. Or, more specifically, that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice is necessary to obtain elite performance levels in activities ranging from golf to chess to music. Coined by Florida State psychologist Anders Ericsson and made famous by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, the 10,000 hour rule reflects the idea that becoming a world-class athlete or performer rests on a long period of hard work rather than “innate ability” or talent. You don’t need to be born with the “right” genes to be a super star, says Ericsson, you just have to practice in the “right” way.

Hard work does help explain who will reach the highest levels of performance in music and chess alike. But, it’s not the entire story. In fact, in both areas, deliberate practice wasn’t even half the story – it was about 1/3 of it. Some people require much less practice than others to reach elite performance levels. In other words, it seems that factors other than practice are important for determining who is going to obtain the highest level of skill.

I have to admit, the 10,000 hour rule is an appealing one. It implies that almost anyone can become an expert if they work hard enough. As Hambrick says, deliberate practice is so popular because it has “meritocratic appeal.”  The data, however, tell a somewhat different story. Yes, hard work is extremely important, but it’s not everything. Whether it’s genes, motivation, one’s ability to handle failure, all of the above or something else altogether, we have to owe up to the fact that factors other than practice contribute to achieving greatness. Only then will we be best able to identify areas we are most likely to excel in and have the best chance of rising to the top.

Monday, April 18, 2016


The Tang Dynasty was a high point of culture in ancient China. Especially esteemed were poems. There was no home coming or leave taking; no event too small to not be commemorated with a poem.

Some of the best poems of that period have been collected into an anthology known as The 300 Tang Dynasty Poems. A online version of the anthology may be found here.  Today we have #59: A SONG OF WHITE SNOW IN FAREWELL TO FIELD-CLERK WU GOING HOME


The north wind rolls the white grasses and breaks them;
And the Eighth-month snow across the Tartar sky
Is like a spring gale, come up in the night,
Blowing open the petals of ten thousand peartrees.
It enters the pearl blinds, it wets the silk curtains;
A fur coat feels cold, a cotton mat flimsy;
Bows become rigid, can hardly be drawn
And the metal of armour congeals on the men;
The sand-sea deepens with fathomless ice,
And darkness masses its endless clouds;
But we drink to our guest bound home from camp,
And play him barbarian lutes, guitars, harps;
Till at dusk, when the drifts are crushing our tents
And our frozen red flags cannot flutter in the wind,
We watch him through Wheel-Tower Gate going eastward.
Into the snow-mounds of Heaven-Peak Road....
And then he disappears at the turn of the pass,
Leaving behind him only hoof-prints.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Ruts and Rituals

So you practice diligently everyday, but after a while it feels stale. Perhaps the rituals and habits that you worked so hard to form have become crutches and ruts. 

Below is an excerpt from an article from Inc. The whole article may be read here.

Brilliant performers in any field often have rituals or practices that they fall back on to help them perform consistently at their peak. When you are charged with doing complex work every day, rituals can bring order to your world and help you focus more effectively. If you want to deliver a result consistently, you must systemize it, and that's precisely what a ritual does.

However, the danger of rituals is that they can remain in your schedule long after they have stopped serving their original purpose. Worse, they can begin to work against your ability to be effective.
While I believe that high-performing people and teams must have strong rituals in their life to support their goals, I also know that these rituals must be examined on a regular basis to ensure that they aren't becoming fossilized ruts. Here are a few suggestions for shaking up your rituals before they stall your progress.

Examine Your Daily Rituals For Ruts

Many people have daily behaviors they engage in without thinking, whether that's the time they get out of bed, a quick stop for coffee in the morning, a discipline of reading/studying, or the check-ins they do with their co-workers. Consider how you're currently engaging in these rituals, and how you might be able to able them to make them more effective today.

Additionally, consider how you begin and end each day. Don't just rush out of bed, swallow some breakfast, and speed off to work. Do you have daily rituals that help you focus on your priorities, think about opportunities, and evaluate your progress? If not, think about how you might be able to incorporate them. If you already have these rituals in place, consider whether they are truly effective, or if there's a way you can tweak them to make them work better for you.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

XingYiQuan's 3 Levels of Practice

My friend over at The Dao of Strategy brought this excellent article by CS Tang to my attention. Below is an excerpt. The original may be read here.

The terms of Xingyi Quan’s three levels of practice—Ming Jin (明勁), An Jin (喑勁), Hua Jin (化勁)—came from Guo Yun Shen and were systematized by Sun Lu Tang, who proposed three levels of practice:
  1. training the Jing to transform into Qi
  2. training the Qi to transform into Shen
  3. training the Shen to return to emptiness.
Initially this theory was a concept without clear differentiation. In Dai family Xingyi Quan, each time one began to train a fist one had to practice it several times with a soft Jin at first and then a few times with a hard Jin before closing the movement. The intention was to practice slowly to begin with, ensuring that the movements were accurate, and to use the Yin energy completely, co-ordinating the movements between hands and feet. Through repeated practice one would collect the Jin in the body, accumulate a ball of Qi and release it with power and sound, with an integrated and explosive force in a single movement. Hebei Xingyi Quan inherited the above method but took a more direct approach, whereby one had to learn the hard Jin at first so that one would achieve power and could apply it quickly. Once one had mastered the fierce and hard way of practice, they would then begin to train the An Jin and Hua Jin.

The practice method of the three Jin is mainly used in the Five Elements Fists. Each fist is practiced in three ways. First, master the hard movement so that you can face the enemy; then begin to practice sets of the form; finally, go back to the beginning to train An Jin. When you are proficient you can train the Twelve Animal forms, before finally training the Five Elements Hua Jin.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Machiavelli's Reading List

Over at Modern Machiavelli, there was a post on what would be a good reading list for a present day Machiavelli. I've read most of them and concur.

The full post with brief descriptions of the books may be read here. The list in a nutshell is:

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
You Are The Message by Roger Ailes
The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene
The Definite Book of Body Language by Allan and Barbara Pease
Influence by Robert Cialdini
Games People Play by Eric Berne
Propaganda by Edward Bernays
The Prince by Nicolo Machiaveli
The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
On War by Carl von Clausewitz
The Art of Worldly Wisdom by Baltasar Gracian
The Craft of Power by RGH Siu
Maxims and Reflections by Francesco Guicciardini
33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene
The 36 Strategies
The Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
The 16 Laws of Success by Napoleon Hill
Antifragile by Nassim Taleb
Mastery by Robert Greene